Car reviews - Lexus - RC - F
Orchestral V8, clever gearbox, ride quality, solid feel and quality materials, steering feel
Room for improvement
Active cruise control not disciplined, rear seat room, foot-operated park brake eats up driver foot room, boot space
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12 Feb 2015
GENERATING passion for a brand has to be organic, but a melodious V8 gets things off to a good start.
The Lexus RC F’s curvaceous flanks and aggressive front air intakes look as though there was much more human involvement in the design process, rather than it being dominated by mechanical and aerodynamic considerations.
But it's the V8 that will increase its fan club – Lexus has had such an engine beneath the bulbous snout of the IS F sedan and its distant cousin is in residence in the RC F.
The Japanese brand has taken the naturally aspirated path while BMW and Mercedes-Benz have both gone down the forced-induction road.
The all-alloy 90-degree V8 runs quad cams controlling 32 valves, delivering 351kW at 7100rpm and 530Nm from 4800 through to 5600rpm – up on the 317kW from the BMW M4's twin-turbo six cylinder, but down on the 200kg lighter German coupe's 550Nm on offer from 1850 through to 5500rpm.
It is a smooth, delicious and free-spirited V8 that delights in the spins freely to its redline just the other side of 7000rpm.
But where the IS F had much room for improvement in ride quality, the RC F's solid – if a little heavy – chassis offers a firm but far better treatment of the passengers.
The absence of the more sedate RC350's adjustable suspension is rarely missed on the open road, even when the surface degrades.
It's still anything but a magic carpet ride – bumps big and small are felt but the impact is rounded off more sublimely than any efforts made by the IS F.
The steering offers pleasant and consistent weight on the open road, relaying decent levels of information back to the driver and offering enthusiastic turn-in.
Cycling through the various modes fails to degrade the smooth shift quality while offering appropriate gears for the driving demeanour – as well as a genuine manual shift that is not (thankfully) overridden by electronic nursemaids.
At open road cruising speeds there is an absence of drone from the drivetrain and only some tyre rumble and low-level road noise will be noted by existing Lexus owners.
The sports bucket seats in the $133,500, plus on-roads RC F ($147,500 for the Carbon edition) are comfortable and offer a wider range of adjustment than the RC350's driver's seat to give taller driver's a little more headroom.
Headroom is at a premium – the sunroof still eats into the headspace for taller folk – it can't be deleted from the RC F but those opting for the Carbon edition will benefit from a solid roof with an extra 32mm of headroom.
The two rear seats would be the domain of smaller occupants only, unless all four people in the car were well below average in height, one area where the BMW M4 coupe scores against the Lexus.
Switching to the racetrack allows for more exploration of the chassis, although the absence of runoff and the close concrete obstacles at Mount Panorama offer the very real chance of testing some of the eight airbags and the effectiveness of its crash protection.
That said, the RC F feels at home on the track, with considerable pace from its V8 and a soundtrack that prompts daydreams of podium finishes.
The clear digital instruments relay ample information, dominated by the engine revving delightfully to 7000rpm and speeds above 200km/h - in the case of Conrod Straight prior to Caltex Chase the instruments showed 240km/h.
Corner entry and exit is fuss-free and effective, with enthusiastic steering, clever diff and more compliant rear suspension offering the driver considerable confidence under brakes and in the bends.
Steering remains communicative but could perhaps do with a touch more weight for track work, but that would fall into the nitpicking realm.
The foot-operated park brake is far from ideal, robbing the driver of foot space - the introduction of an electric park brake would be a worthy addition.
In standard form, the RC F undercuts its primary German rivals – including the BMW M4 by about $30,000 and the Audi RS5 for $24,000 – and it's certainly not missing much to get that price advantage.
As an everyday proposition, the RC F has the road manners to encourage daily use, aesthetic appeal and the performance potential to make it a genuine threat to its European competition.
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